5 Tips to Lighten the Load of Your Photo Collection

Who’s idea was it to get a puppy?

Here in this year of 2020 (I refuse to use the word “unprecedented”), we’ve been forced to slow down, consider what’s most important to us and adopt new puppies. What the H-E-double-toothpicks was I thinking? But I digress.

Connection—that’s what we are all missing right now. Believe it or not, organizing your photo collection can be a fun way to cultivate connection with family friends, including those in our very own household. Looking through photos, printed or digital, with your family will trigger memories and amazing conversations. Once you have your collection organized, you get to share it with those outside your immediate family. Finally, there’s something fun to look forward to on that family Zoom call! Connection is what it’s all about. I’ve got some strategies to get you rolling.

If you’re like many others, you’ve been checking projects off the list around the house. Maybe getting your photos organized is one of those projects. Oh, but it’s so much more than just a project to check off the list. It can be a place to uncover the stories that have been buried in the boxes under your bed or on your hard drive. My business quest is to support clients through what feels like an overwhelming task of photo organization. Whether it is boxes of printed photos or digital photos spread across multiple devices, there are some strategies you might find helpful.

Let’s start with mindset versus the tactical. Less really is more. I have to remind myself of this basic fact when I’m curating my own photos. My children are not going to want to inherit 100s of thousands of digital images as well as manage their own collection of photos. My goal would be to hand them the best of the best. I work every day with people looking to reduce the amount of physical and digital space their photos occupy, but it’s about more than the space. At a deeper level we’re looking to remember a moment in time and how it made us feel. We’re possibly preparing for the physical hand-off to our children, but the time spent preparing it can be a wonderful gift.

As a professional photo organizer, I’ve assembled just a few of the top tips to get you started curating your own collection.

1. Consolidate all your photos to one location. Whether it’s a printed collection or a digital collection, this is always where we start. This can be a scary step to see it all in one place, but it is where the rubber meets the road. It’s here where you’ll be able to assess how much you’ve got and make a plan and prioritize what’s most important.

2. Back to the “Less is More” mindset. You don’t need to keep everything. When curating, it’s ok to toss the redundant, blurry, overexposed, and just plain bad snaps from the 80s. And do you really want all those selfies, sunsets, and food photos? If you have an intent for them someday, then by all means tag and rate appropriately (if you’re working on a digital collection). Otherwise, delete, delete, delete and keep the best ones. If you’re working on a printed collection of photos, have the trash can nearby and avoid the temptation to go back through them later. Handle each photo as few times as possible. My caveat—don’t throw out all the pictures of you that you don’t like, especially if you are Mom. There aren’t always that many of us to begin with, so make sure you keep some. Your kids don’t care that your hair was a mess. They likely didn’t even notice.

3. Be deliberate and take fewer pictures. Although we don’t have to pay for film processing anymore, consider what your time is worth on the back end where you are now having to organize. If you’re worried about getting a good shot and you shoot a lot, I can appreciate that. However, it might be time to trade that time investment for a photography course. Maybe you don’t realize you’re taking so many photos because you don’t understand how your camera or phone works. Time to get out that manual or ask The Google and figure it out.

Ok, I had to add another picture of Reggie here.

4. Tip 3 leads us to Tip 4. Let’s sharpen our photography skills. This can greatly reduce the number of photos you’re culling through to find your favorites. Because now you’re taking fewer, better photos. Time to up your game. There are so many amazing instructors out there that are willing to share their talent. There are many virtual learning opportunities to check out. Sites like www.CreativeLive.com and LinkedIn Learning have classes for photography skills and many other creative endeavors. There are also many smaller, virtual opportunities to connect with other photographers who love sharing their gifts of photography. Oh, and the new puppy can be a perfect muse for inspiration—if he would just sit still for 2 seconds. Just don’t keep all the photos of your new muse…

5. Ask for help and make it fun. This applies mostly to your printed collection but imagine the opportunity this could be to share this process with those in your household (Covid-style). Set a time limit for each session so you don’t burn out. Then start sorting, laughing, purging and loving. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

This could be the beginning of an enjoyable relationship with your photographs. Plus, your family and kids will benefit too. You’ve got this. Now go dig out those boxes of photos!